Last week, I was asked to write some script for a learning package; part of one chapter was about ‘plenaries’.

Definition of plenary


  • The meaning of plenary - Google search return

    1 unqualified; absolute:crusaders were offered a plenary indulgence by the Pope

  • 2 (of a meeting) to be attended by all participants at a conference or assembly, who otherwise meet in smaller groups:a plenary session of the European Parliament


  • a meeting or session attended by all participants at a conference or assembly: working parties would report back to the plenary with recommendations


late Middle English: from late Latin plenarius ‘complete’, from plenus ‘full’

From Oxford Dictionaries – link.

I’d never understood the word plenary to mean anything other than that hinted at by adjective 2 and noun above. I suspect that many of my readers have a similar understanding? I certainly had no inkling of the Pope’s indulgences.

It concerned me therefore to think that I could write part of a lesson planning chapter titled ‘episodes’, which included ‘plenaries’ in the outline brief. Sadly, it made little sense to me.

Plenaries were often the least active part of lessons. Teachers tended merely to sum up what happened during the main phase and pupils did not have the opportunity to articulate what they had learned*.

So I had to research the subject and although none of the literature I found suggested that plenaries were anything other than a bringing together (usually at the end), I found that in educational circles they don’t just happen at the end of a given session, especially if you are using ‘episodes’ of learning activity. It would seem that plenaries occur after and throughout each activity – who knew!

We always called this reviewing and it happened at the end of a lesson and at the beginning of the next. Words eh?



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